Emily Wiethorn (b.1991) is a photographic artist currently based in Lincoln, NE where she will graduate with her MFA in Studio Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is an Instructor of Record and holds a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. She received her BFA in Photography from Northern Kentucky University. She has most recently been awarded the 2017 SPE Student Award for Innovations in Imaging, was a Critical Mass finalist in 2017, a finalist for The Texas Photographic Society’s National Photography Award, and is a featured artist in the spring 2018 issue of PDNedu. Her work has been published online with Musee Magazine, Lenstratch, Loosen Art, among others. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally in China and Italy. She works primarily in self-portraiture where she explores notions of feminine identity, societal constructs of femininity, and self-discovery.
There is immense pressure on women to “perform” for the public. Whether this is the feeling that we must be “presentable” when we leave the house each day, or when we tailor our personalities in public in an attempt to be more socially amenable. There is an intense weariness that has consumed me after years of putting on disguises each day, trying to make myself perfect, likeable. I learned how to perform my feminine identity, and now I’m learning how to disassemble it, take it apart and see the bones underneath. I’ve learned how powerful my feminine identity is in its imperfectness, but also how incredibly fragile it is as well.
As a young girl, I was given many instructions on how a woman should act and spent my life in the well-intentioned disguises taught to me by my mother. I concealed much of my introverted personality by making sure I always appeared happy and complacent the way I was taught a woman should always behave. I gladly accepted these parameters in hopes that I would be desirable to society, and in turn happier within myself. My mother’s influence is paramount to my understanding of feminine identity; her impact is intertwined into each image in both subtle and prominent ways.
Utilizing self-portraiture, I am constantly experiencing a “hall of mirrors” effect where it is difficult to distinguish between truth and illusion, as I am both subject and maker. I am a complicated construct of both the rejection and acceptance of society’s definition of femininity. I am confronting the disguises that have become a part of my feminine identity while exposing and scrutinizing my own secrets. Working alone, I experience a powerful reclamation of power. I confront the viewer, the camera, and ultimately myself in an attempt to uncover and assert my inner identity underneath years of impersonations.
Hidden behind expected social roles, our inner identity can become lost. Through my work, I explore what happens when our masks become so convincing that we no longer recognize ourselves.